Nantucket sleigh ride in the sky

After a too-long hiatus I’ve returned to listening to Moby Dick via the Moby Dick Big Read audio project. Today was Chapter 57, the last of three enchanting chapters in the center of the book in which Melville critiques the ways in which whales have been depicted in art. Each chapter is worth reading (or hearing) in itself, but the third ends with a passage that leaves me breathless with delight. Read it aloud for the best effect, and I dare you not to find yourself carried away in the process!

Nor when expandingly lifted by your subject, can you fail to trace out great whales in the starry heavens, and boats in pursuit of them; as when long filled with thoughts of war the Eastern nations saw armies locked in battle among the clouds. Thus at the North have I chased Leviathan round and round the Pole with the revolutions of the bright points that first defined him to me. And beneath the effulgent Antarctic skies I have boarded the Arg0-Navis, and joined the chase against the starry Cetus far beyond the utmost stretch of Hydrus and the Flying Fish.

With a frigate’s anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of harpoons for spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the topmost skies to see whether the fabled heavens with all their countless tents really lie encamped beyond my mortal sight! (p. 261)

(Quoted from the Franklin Library edition, published in 1974 and beautifully illustrated with colored plates. A cherished gift from a very dear friend.)

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